You always remember your first, and Grand Strand locals and visiting golfers haven’t forgotten Rees Jones’ first.
While the course architect has earned acclaim for many of his designs over the past four decades and the work he has done preparing some of the nation’s best courses to host U.S. Opens, his first solo design may have become overshadowed but is still a notable design.
The 6,857-yard Arcadian Shores Golf Club opened in 1974 and the layout continues to resonate with golfers 42 years later, remaining a popular choice with players.
“It’s a very enjoyable course,” said Dan Wolfe of Huntersville, N.C., a health care consultant and 21 handicap who took part in a review of the course in late March. “It’s challenging with many scenic holes.”
Joining me and Dan in the review foursome were Kevin Rock of Huntersville, an Allstate agency owner with a 14 handicap, and Bill Wrenn of Murrells Inlet, a retired liquor store owner with a 17 handicap.
Despite its close proximity to the ocean, Arcadian Shores features noticeable elevation changes that result in downhill tee shots and both uphill and downhill approach shots, and several slightly elevated greens.
Holes have generally sparse tree lines consisting of some pines and a multitude of hardwoods including oaks.
The course has holes that turn left and right though there are no sharp doglegs.
Ponds come into play on a few holes, but large, often-fingered bunkers that protect fairways and greens, and undulating putting surfaces are the course’s primary defenses.
“I would recommend it for all caliber of player,” Bill said. “It makes you think club selection.”
Bunkers front many greens. “You have to fly it to the green a lot here,” Dan said. “There are very few pitch-and-run options to greens, and there are some deep bunkers that if you don’t select the right club and hit it in them, they can ruin a hole. It’s a shot-makers course.”
Most Tifton Bermudagrass greens have significant undulation and several have mild ridges or more dramatic tiers running through them.
“The greens are challenging with lots of break,” Dan said. “You have to really have touch on these greens or you’ll run well past the hole.”
The course was in good condition for our group, including bunker sand and greens that had been overseeded for the winter.
“It’s in better shape than it had been for a few years,” Bill said. “I think the fairways and greens are in great shape. The greens are not too fast or too slow.”
Fairways were soft in areas because of recent rain, but they were dry enough for us to ride fairways with few restrictions. “You can tell it drains very well as dry as it is after the heavy rain,” Dan said. “It’s in great condition.”
The group believes the green fees ranging from $35 to $63 depending on the time of year make Arcadian Shores one of the best bargains on the beach.
Dan appreciated the course’s convenient location near Restaurant Row for golfers in both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
Arcadian Shores can be easily walked because of the proximity of greens and tees, and allows walking seasonally.
Bill appreciated the noteworthiness of the course being Jones’ first design after breaking from the firm of his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr. “It’s his first outing as an architect by himself and he’s got some great courses,” Bill said. “So here at the beach to be his first course, it has to be right up there with his accomplishments.”
There wasn’t a beverage cart the day we played.
Kevin was happy to see a new clubhouse is being built that may open by late summer. “The clubhouse was very dated but they’re building a new one,” he said.
There are a number of parallel fairways, so you may get balls and golfers from another hole in your fairway. “Some holes felt too close to each other,” Kevin said.
Bill thought some white tees were misplaced, particularly on the par-4 14th hole, where the tee is on the same box with the gold and in front of a water hazard to shorten the hole to 300 yards and take fairway bunkers essentially out of play.
Pin placements can be difficult with the course’s sloping greens. “The green undulations require discipline by the superintendent and staff. I like greens with undulations, it just depends where they put the pins and I didn’t like all the pin positions today. There were a couple that were hairy where you had to be careful.”
Par-3s are challenging with distances between 169 and 209 yards from the back tees and between 138 and 168 from the middle white tees.
The 201-yard second hole features a tee box that horseshoes around water to set up different angles into a green that is surrounded by water on three sides. Tee boxes to the right have a more direct shot over water, while tee boxes to the left must carry water that continues along the right and back of the green that slopes in from the left and right and is rolling in between.
The 174-yard eighth has water to the right and front right of the green with a deep bunker in front and long bunker to the left, and the green has a sever ridge down the middle. The blue tee, which is one up from the back, is a peninsula in the water to the right of the other tee boxes.
The 209-yard 15th has a large bunker with grass islands stretching from front right to back right of a green that slopes to the front and both right and left off a middle ridge. The 169-yard 17th has water fronting a two-tiered green that is higher on the left and is protected by a back bunker.
“Three of the four par-3s are very challenging with lots of water and require a long enough tee shot to carry the ball to the green,” Dan said.
The par-3s measured between 117 and 147 yards from the gold tees. “They were very fair from the gold tees,” Bill said. “They were not too long but had enough trouble to make you think.”
Par-4s aren’t overpowering, as only the 447-yard 18th is longer than 425 yards, and the other eight par-4s measure between 361 and 411. “Some of the par-4s are great holes and made you think what clubs to use,” Bill said.
The 399-yard fourth hole is straightforward and the 402-yard fifth is a dogleg left with a downhill tee shot toward bunkers inside and outside the bend and bunkers left of a mildly rolling green. The 411-yard sixth is a dogleg right around bunkers in mounding with bunkers left and right of the green.
The 361-yard seventh is a slight dogleg left with a pair of right fairway bunkers and water beyond them to the right and below a green and a pair of front bunkers. The green has a middle ridge and is higher on the right.
The 425-yard 11th requires a 220-yard carry over water from the back tee and a green with bunkers left and right slopes to the left. The 383-yard 12th has a large fingered front bunker that protects the entire width of a green that slopes to the front.
The 398-yard 14th has a tee shot into an incline with bunkers left, Lake Arrowhead right and an undulating green with a water tower as a backdrop. The 447-yard 18th has a slightly downhill tee shot turning slightly right and a green sloping sharply right and protected left and right by bunkers.
“There’s a good mix of straight par-4s versus dogleg holes,” Dan said, “and well-placed traps can require the selection of different clubs off the tee.”
Two of the first three holes and the starting holes on both nines are par-5s, which measure between 502 and 557 yards from the tips and between 444 and 511 from the white tees. “The par-5s had some nice layouts with options to lay up or go for the green,” Kevin said.
The 527-yard first hole is a dogleg left with a slightly downhill tee shot around a pair of bunkers. There are a multitude of bunkers around the green, leaving only the front-right portion open. The 508-yard third has water to carry off the tee and a green that slopes left to right and is guarded by bunkers front left, right and back.
The 502-yard 10th has bunkers on both sides of the fairway off the tee, and the pin can be tucked behind a left-front bunker that is among three around a green that slopes mildly to the front and right.
The 557-yard 16th turns slightly right and has a slightly downhill tee shot through tree lines with housing to the left. A two-tiered green that is higher on the left side is mildly elevated and protected by bunkers front, front left and left.
“Most of the par-5 greens are very well guarded with traps,” Dan said. “Very challenging shot-making will be rewarded.”
Everyone in the group found the 408-yard par-4 13th hole – which is the course’s signature hole if there is one – to be their favorite hole on the course. The slight dogleg left slopes downhill to water after the 150 marker and features a downhill approach to a green sloping sharply to the front that is backed by a fingered bunker and flowers.
“No. 13 is my favorite hole on the course and I think it’s one of the best par-4s on the Grand Strand,” Bill said. “It has a beautiful background.”
Dan particularly liked the approach shot. “It’s the No. 1 handicap hole but it’s very pretty,” he said. “Club selection is key due to the landing area being downhill. That downhill shot into the green is pretty cool. It’s a beautiful green with azalea bushes in the back. It reminds me of the 12th green of Amen Corner at Augusta.”
Kevin also thought the hole warranted comparison to Augusta National Golf Club. “It’s very beautiful,” he said.
Least favorite holes
Dan’s least favorite hole was the 411-yard par-4 sixth, which played 390 from the blue and 373 from the white. It’s a dogleg right around bunkers in mounding, with bunkers left and right of a green that’s close to U.S. 17. “The noise of the traffic from Highway 17 [is distracting],” Dan said. “I’d like to see some high bushes or something as a buffer from U.S. 17 there. It’s noisy and you lose the tranquility of the course in that area.”
Kevin identified the 376-yard par-4 ninth hole as his least favorite. It’s fairly straight forward with a left fairway bunker, uphill approach shot and bunkers left and front right of a green featuring a mild ridge down the middle. “It doesn’t look like a front nine finishing hole to me,” he said. “I feel a ninth hole should have more design.”
Bill’s least favorite hole was the par-5 16th, measuring 489 yards from the gold tee. “I’m not saying it’s a bad hole, but it just didn’t fit my eye. It doesn’t set up well for me and I can’t pick a line.”
Arcadian Shores Golf Club
701 Hilton Road
Myrtle Beach, SC 29572
DIRECTIONS: From south Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 17 North through Restaurant Row and turn right onto Hilton Road before reaching Tanger Outlet and the entrance to S.C. 22. The Arcadian Shores entrance is ahead on the right.
COURSE OPENED: 1974
COURSE DESIGNERS: Rees Jones
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Public
PRO SHOP PHONE: 843-449-5217, 1-866-326-5275
WEB SITE: www.arcadianshoresgolf.com
GREENS FEE: Ranges from $35-$63 (local rates, 48-hour internet rates available)
GENERAL MANAGER: Frank Coughlin
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Eric Covelli
GREENS: Tifton Bermudagrass, poa trivialis winter overseed
FAIRWAYS: Bermuda, ryegrass overseed
CLUBHOUSE: Pro shop and snack bar in temporary trailer as new clubhouse is being built, separate trailer with restrooms.
PRACTICE FACILITY: Driving range, practice putting green, chipping green with bunker, lessons available.
SPECIAL AMENITY: Club/ball washers on carts
COURSE RATINGS: Black: 73.2, Blue: 71.5, White: 69.2, Gold: 67.7, Red: 69.9
SLOPE RATINGS: Black: 137, Blue: 132, White: 126, Gold: 115, Red: 117
All scores are based on a scale of 1-5.
1-poor; 2-satisfactory; 3-solid/average;
4-very good; 5-the best
Home: Huntersville, N.C.
Birthplace: Phoenix, Ariz.
Occupation: Allstate insurance agency owner
Tees played: 6,857-yard black, 6,446-yard blue mix
Highlight: Approach from 110 yards to 6 inches on the par-4 sixth hole.
Home: Huntersville, N.C.; North Myrtle Beach
Birthplace: Charlotte, N.C.
Occupation: Health care consultant
Tees played: 6,446-yard blue
Highlight: Losing four balls but finding two for a net loss of just two balls.
Home: Murrells Inlet
Birthplace: Ashburn, Va.
Occupation: Retired liquor store owner
Tees played: 5,647-yard gold
Highlight: Pars on four of the first five holes on the front nine – our second nine.
Home: Myrtle Beach
Birthplace: Lisbon, Maine
Occupation: Golf writer
Tees played: 6,446-yard blue
Highlight: Birdies on our first two holes – 10 and 11 – en route to a 2-over 38 on our first nine.